Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Does the world need more film books?

An interviewer asked me this question and it took me by surprise. But, like all good questions, it made me think.

Just last week I was delving into the musty shelves of a rather substantial used book store, the kind where you should request a map at the door and have to walk sideways down the aisles. At one point I was looking for Wanderer by Sterling Hayden in the few hundred actor/director/singer/entertainer biographies. These were far removed from the film books. I discovered the film books on the next floor, secreted away in a back corner. There were maybe three solid shelves of them, consisting of genre studies, review compilations, and hardcore criticism.

Thousands of books but only a few dozen on film. This strikes me very odd when so many conversations I have during the week -- or conversations I eavesdrop on -- are about movies. They seem to be something we love to watch and discuss. But, read about?

Not so much.

This seems a shame to me.

The local chain bookstore has narrowed its film section significantly of late, taking it down to picture-laden books about the latest movie at the cineplex along with more Maltin and Ebert books than I thought possible.

Film theory and film criticism have been cast out of the book stores, leaving just big name film review and the novelty books about genres or genre stars and doorstop tomes about Jean-Luc Godard (which are undoubtedly just flying off the shelves).

Film books are still being written, of course, they're just not finding their way onto bookshelves the way they used to. It's the exceptional book store that will carry anything that goes beyond film tie-in books of the latest multiplex massacre.

I use for my book shopping -- or, at least, for finding out about things that I want to read. It's all about their algorithms. I'll look up a book that I love and look at the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought", "Customers Also Bought Items By", "What Do Customers Ultimately Buy After Viewing This Item?", "Listmania!", or "So You'd Like To..." lists to see what other products are listed. Then it's a trip down the rabbit hole; bouncing from one product to another, quickly finding things that I never knew existed.

That's how I found some other film books that have been recently released that sound up my alley:

Make no mistake that that's not a comprehensive list, nor have I read everything on it. These are books that look like they're up my alley that won't be showing up at your local commercial bookstore.

Does the world need more film books? Yes. But I want to add that the world needs more places to buy or read film books. In this world of blog entries and twitters, the seventh art needs more of a presence in print.


XichthusX said...

You are so smart. I would never think of that as a way to track down books. I will need to do this in the future. I love buying books on film. I will have to give you a list on what I am working on.

Greg Woods said...

Oooh-- a new Jonathan Rosenbaum book. Thanks for listing this-- I might not have known otherwise. He's one of my favourites

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